Matters of the Heart: Part V
by Amber Wood-Brasher (rogue)

“Hurry up!”

”I’m trying…Ouch!”

“What? Are you all right?”

Senia reached down and rubbed her ankle, wincing as she felt the warmth of what might become a bruise. “I tripped over a tree root.” She heard Legolas let out a small laugh, which he tried to disguise as a cough. “Oh…be quiet.”

”I am, much quieter than you are, apparently. Now hurry, we have to get Alabaster.”

Senia nodded and followed the Prince’s shadowy form through the woods, trying to keep up and move as silently as he was. She wasn’t having much luck; how Legolas had learned to move like that was beyond her. He stopped, poised much like a feline, looking from side to side. He then motioned to her with one hand, and took off again, leaping over the stable fence with one fluid motion before Senia even got her feet moving. “Would you wait up?”

“Would you move faster?”

Senia clenched her teeth as she swung herself over the wooden fence, thinking some very un-ladylike things about Prince Legolas. As soon as her feet had touched down on the slightly muddy ground, Legolas was handing her the reins and an apple. “Keep him occupied while I get the saddle on him.”

Senia’s expression must have been one of slight mistrust, and Legolas couldn’t help but laugh, just a little. “Don’t worry. He isn’t going to do anything dangerous, it’s simply a good idea for you to speak to him, feed him, and keep his mind off of the saddle. Especially considering you’re going to be riding him in the dark.”

“All right,” Senia said, taking the apple and the reins. “But if he rears up and kicks me in the head, be assured that I will come back to haunt you.”

“And be more unpleasant in that afterlife than you are at present?” Legolas said, one corner of his mouth curled and one eyebrow quirked. “Most disturbing thought indeed.”

Senia rolled her eyes. “Would you please shut up and put the saddle on?”

“Yes, Milady.”

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Senia sat silently on a nearby rock, watching as Legolas gently tugged on the saddle’s various leather straps and buckles. “What are you doing?”

”Checking the girth,” he replied. “Making sure the saddle is comfortable on the horse, checking to see if anything is torn or broken. You will learn how to do this later.” After a few more moments, it appeared the Prince was satisfied with the “girth,” and turned back to Senia. “Ready?”

Senia stood, nibbling at her lower lip, and nodded. “As ready as I will ever be.”

”Good.” Legolas stepped out of the way, taking hold of Alabaster’s reins, near the horse’s mouth. “Now…put one hand, lightly, on the reins. Put your left foot in the stirrup-Careful! Don’t poke him! He may run off if you do.”

Senia stopped in mid-step, biting down on her lower lip. “You’re making me very nervous.”

Legolas smiled. “I’m sorry. Hop around until you are square with the horse’s side, but only touch the ground with the ball of your foot. Be graceful. If that’s possible,” he muttered.

Senia took her foot off of the stirrups and rounded on the Prince. “Listen to me, your majesty, I spent the first few years of my life walking with books balanced on my head. My mother smacked the back of my hand with a switch whenever she saw that I wasn’t sitting up strait and although I avoid wearing them at all costs, I know how to breathe in a corset. Don’t you talk to me about grace.”

Legolas’s eyes widened a bit through the length of her speech. He stood for a moment, looking at her and blinking, before lowering his head a bit. “My apologies, Senia.”

Senia drew herself up, and released the breath she’d been holding. “Accepted.” Turning away from him, she put her foot back into the stirrup and making sure her body was parallel to the horse’s side. She heard a light chuckle come from Legolas, and she turned, glaring at him. “I’d like to know precisely what you think is so funny.”

“I’m sorry,” he said, pressing one hand to his mouth to stifling the laughter. “It’s just…I have this image in my head now of you trying to walk with books stacked on your head.”

Senia blinked, unsure of exactly how to take that statement, and then shook her head. “Just tell me what to do now. Please.”

Legolas nodded, still smiling. “Of course. Sorry. All right, here’s the tricky part. You need to get a good spring in your step, and swing your leg over the saddle. Try not to catch your leg on his hindquarters. He could take off with and throw you, or you could fall.”

Senia took a deep breath, taking a firm hold on the saddle. “Right.” Mentally counting to three, Senia tensed her muscles, and swung her right leg over the saddle.

And, apparently, did exactly what Legolas told her NOT to do, because before she knew it she was taking a tumble for the ground. She hit the dirt, landing on her bottom.

Legolas looked down at her, arms folded. “Perhaps I should stack some books on your head?”

Senia scooped up a handful of dirt and threw it in his direction. Legolas nonchalantly sidestepped the slightly muddy lump, and then offered Senia his hand to help her up. “The humans have a saying: Get back on the horse that threw you.”

”He didn’t throw me,” Senia said, taking the offered hand and standing. “And that is the most unintelligent saying I think I may have ever heard.”

”I never said they were the brightest bunch,” Legolas said with a smile. “Come on, try again.”

* * * * * * * * * * * *

Senia managed to actually get onto the horse on her second attempt, after which Legolas began to teach her the paces and the commands to use to get the horse to execute them. He showed her how to make the horse stop if she became a bit nervous, how to steer the horse to turn in different directions…and finally, how to dismount.

“It’s the exact opposite of mounting,” he explained, once again firmly holding Alabaster’s reins. “Just be careful not to swing all of your weight to one side; Try to keep it balanced, and get off quickly. It’s easier on the horse.”

Senia nodded firmly, took a deep breath, and silently counted to three. She swung herself off of the horse, glad when she felt solid ground beneath her feet. But oddly enough…she was having trouble walking. Her legs didn’t seem to want to stay together, her knees felt shaky and wobbled, like a newborn calf’s. “Is this normal?” she asked, looking over at Legolas.

The Prince had his arms crossed over his chest, and his head was down, his chest shaking with barely contained laughter. “I wish you could see yourself,” he said, chuckling. “It would probably be a good idea to get some rest and take a nice hot bath in the morning. If your mother sees you walking around like that, she may suspect I’ve defiled your honor.”

Senia burst out laughing at that comment, surprised into it. Legolas took Alabaster by the reins and began to lead the horse off, and Senia walked quietly beside him. “Same time tomorrow night,” Legolas said. “It shouldn’t take you too long to be able to do this without my instructions. When I think you’ve gotten it down, I’ll ride with you on my horse.” He looked back over at her, his eyes giving her a quick once over. “You may want to wash up before you go to sleep. You’re filthy.”

Senia rolled her eyes. ”You should talk. And don't presume to tell me what to do, your majesty. I am not your wife yet.”

Legolas looked over at her, his expression one of being half-annoyed, and half...saddened? “Do you ignore everyone? Or is it just me?”

Senia opened her mouth to reply, but stopped herself in mid-sentence, actually taking the Prince’s words into consideration. She hardly ever listened to her mother…She had no desire to listen to Legolas order her around…and even Galadriel, her dearest Lady, could not always get through to her. “I…suppose I do shut everyone out…”

They walked in silence for a few more moments. Finally, Legolas placed a hand on her shoulder, halting their progress and turning to look at her. “Senia, listen,” he said, “I know I haven’t made things easy on you at all. But after what you did for Lelandra…” Legolas smiled. “You don’t have to put up a wall with me anymore. Like it or not, I know that you’re not just a frigid, unpleasant, spoiled brat.”

Senia’s lips parted in amazement. “Was that supposed to be a compliment?”

Legolas shook his head. “No. It was supposed to be truthful. And it is. You purposefully keep yourself distant from everyone, thinking it will makes things easier on you. But in the end, it will only make things harder, Senia.” Legolas turned away, leading Alabaster back down the moonlit pathway.

She did not follow him.

After what could have been mere minutes or an hour, Senia finally continued on, back to the palace, and to her room.

* * * * * * * * *

“Senia? Little One?” Sothiel knocked lightly on the door to her daughter’s room. “Senia? Are you still asleep? I’m coming in…”

Sothiel pushed the door open and stepped into the room, shutting the door behind her. She was slightly surprised to find that her daughter was still in bed, her open eyes staring up at the ceiling. Sothiel shook her head, and began to pick up all of Senia’s clothing that needed washing. She stopped when she saw, near the door to the room, a tub of dirty water with a sponge floating in it. Eyebrows knitted together, Sothiel touched the water…It was still warm. She looked back at her daughter’s sleeping form, and then very quietly opened the door, motioning to a servant girl. “Would you please take this, and have it dumped out,” she said, giving the girl the small basin of water.

”Yes, Milady.”

Sothiel nodded. “Thank you.” She placed her hand on the door handle, peered back at her only daughter, her youngest child, with slightly worried eyes…and very quietly shut the door behind her

| Part VI |
| Index |